The least predictable playoffs in hockey history has completely upended NHL futures in 2019. Gone are the Lightning and the Flames, the top seeds in the eastern and western conference. After the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, new favorites have emerged, including the St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets. Will established favorites continue to fall in the second round?
NHL Playoffs – Eastern Conference Bracket
Columbus Blue Jackets vs Toronto Maple Leafs / Boston Bruins
After going down 3-0 in game one against the Lightning in Tampa Bay, the Columbus Blue Jackets completed the most unlikely sweep, greatly altering NHL futures
. Columbus completely dismantled the Presidents’ Trophy winners, shocking one of the best regular season teams in NHL odds history.
The odds of making NHL playoffs were uncertain for the Jackets, but now they’re among the leaders in the east.
The Blue Jackets outscored Tampa by an 19-8 margin, making the highest scoring team in the NHL look like a minor league affiliate. Pretty much everything went right for Columbus, including an injury to Victor Hedman and the suspension of Nikita Kucherov. This doesn’t mean that the Jackets weren’t completely deserving of their triumph.
Columbus will not be able to roll over the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Boston Bruins, who fought through a seven-game first round series. If the Blue Jackets can maintain the edge which sliced through the Lightning, Columbus will be a formidable challenge to the remaining Atlantic Division challenger.
New York Islanders vs Washington Capitals / Carolina Hurricanes
The most defensively efficient club remaining in the NHL playoffs bracket, the New York Islanders allowed only six goals during their first round sweep. Amazingly, they accomplished this feat against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins – the first time Crosby’s been swept from the playoffs.
Coach Barry Trotz, let go by the Washington Capitals after winning the Stanley Cup, orchestrated this masterful performance. The Isles have thrived without John Tavares, relying on fantastic defensive structure, lights-out goaltending from Robin Lehner and the maturation of Mathew Barzal.
Washington is likely to finish off the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round, which should set up the most intriguing series in the eastern conference. Coach Trotz would love to guide the New York Islanders to the eastern conference finals at the expense of his former employer. Considering his insider knowledge, the Caps should be wary.
NHL Playoffs – Western Conference Bracket
St. Louis Blues vs Nashville Predators / Dallas Stars
The St. Louis Blues were the hottest team in the NHL over the second half of the regular season, and their excellence extended into the post season. St. Louis eliminated an outstanding Winnipeg club 4-2, sending the Jets to the links two rounds earlier than last year. Jordan Binnington continued his incredible goaltending while Jaden Schwartz established himself as a playoff hero with a series-clinching hat-trick.
Prior to coach Craig Berube taking over behind the bench, St. Louis were one of the worst teams in the league. Four months later, the Blues count themselves among the favorites to proceed to the Stanley Cup finals. This extreme turnaround symbolizes the unpredictability of the NHL in 2019.
Compared to the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars, Winnipeg was considered a better shot at earning a long playoff run if they were able to handle the Blues. Neither the Predators nor the Stars appear capable of breaking through the stout Blues backline, lead by the underrated Alex Pietrangelo.
Colorado Avalanche vs San Jose Sharks / Vegas Golden Knights
Colorado spanked the Calgary Flames during their first round tussle, resulting in the top seeds in both conferences exiting the playoffs in less than two weeks – an unprecedented situation. The Avalanche were shut out in game one, stymied by a red-hot Mike Smith. Despite Smith’s fantastic performance, the Avs would go on to complete a gentleman’s sweep.
Nathan MacKinnon’s complete dominance anoints him as the best skater remaining in the post season. The Flames deep defense weren’t able to impede Nate, who scored three goals and eight points, including an overtime GWG and five power play points. Miko Rantanen also had an outstanding series in MacKinnon’s shadow, forming a deadly duo.
The Sharks and the Golden Knights will have beaten each other up during their seven-game, first-round struggle. San Jose and Vegas feature deeper rosters, but they don’t have a superstar like MacKinnon. If Colorado’s goalie Varlamov doesn’t falter, the Avs will be a tough out in the second round.
NHL Stanley Cup Futures
- St. Louis Blues +550
- Washington Capitals +550
- Columbus Blue Jackets +650
- New York Islanders +650
- Colorado Avalanche +850
- Boston Bruins +900
- Dallas Stars +900
- San Jose Sharks +900
- Toronto Maple Leafs +950
- Vegas Golden Knights +1000
- Nashville Predators +2400
- Carolina Hurricanes +3500
NHL Stanley Cup odds have changed drastically over the past couple of weeks, reflecting the unprecedented trend of upsets during the 2019 NHL playoffs. The Tampa Bay Lightning were the top team according to the odds, but the St. Louis Blues now occupy top spot in the eyes of most sportsbooks.
Washington will likely overtake the Blues as odds favorites, assuming the Capitals proceed to the second round. Their nemesis, the Pittsburgh Penguins, were drummed out of contention quickly. So were the Calgary Flames, who were the best regular season team in the west.
At this juncture, the Columbus Blue Jackets might be the best value pick to win the Stanley Cup. A tough second round against the Bruins or the Leafs await, but the Blue Jackets dominant win over the Lightning validates the gamble that Columbus took at the trade deadline. The Golden Knights also offer a great high-risk, high-reward option as they enter the Shark Tank for a decisive game seven.
NHL Eastern Conference Odds
- Washington Capitals +280
- Columbus Blue Jackets +325
- New York Islanders +325
- Boston Bruins +450
- Toronto Maple Leafs +475
- Carolina Hurricanes +1600
NHL Western Conference Odds
- St. Louis Blues +250
- Colorado Avalanche +400
- San Jose Sharks +400
- Vegas Golden Knights +400
- Dallas Stars +450
- Nashville Predators +1200
See below the top sportsbooks where you can wager online and choose the best one for you:
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